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Three Little Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund

If the thought of saving up three to six months of expenses is overwhelming then start smaller. Here are a few simple things you can do today to help you get started on that emergency fund.

Three Little Ways to Boost Your Emergency Fund 2An emergency fund is the foundation of financial security. But whether you’re an I-Banker or starving artist, it’s never easy to sacrifice daily expenses now to build that emergency fund for later.

We all want to save that extra cash each month, and unless you want to move back in with mom and dad, you’re going to have to find ways to cut corners in your finances to put a little away every month…or even every week (it really adds up). If you are unsure of how much to have in your emergency fund you can use our emergency fund calculator to help you figure it out.

Now, the Web is brimming with frugal tips to help you save money on everything from toilet paper to laundry detergent, but some of us don’t want to go to the extremes. (Some people find separating 2-ply TP worthwhile, others never will).That said, there are some steps everybody should take to find savings in their weekly budgets. These three little things don’t require superhuman sacrifice and can add up to significant savings.

Plan Your Meals

Shop smart. It is easy to overspend when you’re at the grocery store. There’s a lot of food in there, and we all like food! Make a list before you go. Plan each meal for the week (or at least for lunch and dinner) on one side of the paper, and list the ingredients that you will need on the other side. Take a look through your cupboards before you shop, and make sure you’re not buying in duplicate. At the store, be sure to look at the unit price of the item rather than the total price. The unit price indicates which product is actually less expensive per unit (per gallon, per ounce, etc.) and will help to reduce your overall grocery bill.

On the other hand, if there is something you know you use a lot of on sale in bulk (like maybe toilet paper or your favorite shampoo) buy it! Buying in bulk can save money in the long run. Again, be sure to look at the unit pricing and don’t be fooled by the sale sign. Retailers sometimes put up the unit price on an item when there is a “sale,” counting on the careless shopper to believe the sign without looking into the details. You were not born yesterday!

Brown Bag It

If you don’t have to eat with a client or boss every day, you should be bringing lunch to work with you. You don’t have to eat in the office or at your desk. Go to the park, or eat in the canteen.

Most grocery bills are reflective of $8-10 dollars per day per person for all three meals. Depending on where you live and where you eat, you could spend anywhere from $10 to $25 dollars on lunch per day when eating out. It really adds up overtime. Buying lunch is convenient, but it will certainly put a damper on your ability to save.

Make a Simple Weekly Budget

If an emergency fund is the foundation of financial security, a budget is the cement. Still, a lot of people have a tough time getting into the habit of regular budgeting. You probably have a rough idea of your monthly budget—your rent, student loan bills, utilities, and how much money you have left over.

But such a “big picture” often gets lost in the day-to-day. A weekly budget can help.

Take the money you have left over after paying your monthly expenses and divide it over the weeks in the month.

Remember when mom and dad used to give you an allowance? It’s like that. Simply give yourself a weekly allowance, and stick to it! Take out weekly spending money in cash, and don’t go over budget.

You’ll know exactly what you’ve spent and won’t be unpleasantly surprised when you look at your bank account balance!

What About You?

Have you been successful saving more by making a simple but significant change to your everyday expenses? What works for you?

Published or updated on May 17, 2010

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  1. R F says:

    I used to go to Trader Joe’s and stock up on the frozen entries that can be used as lunches. $2.50-3.50 for a meal with maybe some extra veggies on the side beats the $6/meal that people spend outside.

  2. Matt says:

    I definitely Brown bag. I also make a point of stocking up on things that are on sale, provided it is something I know I will use (i.e. sodas, paper towels, etc.)

    Any bonus, gift money, etc. goes to the emergency fund.

  3. For me, the best emergency fund I have is precious metals. Gold and Silver. Usually silver. They’re both incredibly liquid, and having both on hand can gauge the amount needed for any emergency.

    It’s also great for the portfolio as a hedge against economic disaster, as gold and silver becomes heavily desired for trade.

    shouldn’t be any surprise that a dragon hoards this stuff though, no? 😛

    But that’s a fantastic strategy to tell someone.

    Brown bag it for a couple weeks, and go buy some silver. XD

  4. Johanna says:

    I start over each pay period with the money from that pay period only. Anything left from the prior period gets taken out of the operating account and put into the savings. It’s really easy to spend it if it’s there, and really easy not to spend it if it’s no longer there.

  5. Tim D. says:

    Good article – I find that between myself and my girlfriend that we can eat well for 4-6 weeks with one trip to the grocery store that totals $100-$150 each trip. That works out to roughly $2/person/day for all 3 meals! The main ingredient is usually chicken breast (less than $2/lb) or some cheap pork you can throw in a crock pot to make delicious. How about some ground turkey and hamburger helper? I can’t even remember the last time we had a repeat meal and being so frugal really helps the budget every month. I don’t ever think to myself that I wish we bought more food. Combine these strategies with the ‘live off $10 per day’ article and that is how I’ve been finding success as a very early-along budgeter/saver.

  6. BT says:

    Budget, and feed your e-fund at the first of the month. Then feed it again with any money leftover at the end of the month.

    Tax returns- send them to the e-fund

    Christmas/birthday money – e-fund

    Soon, you’ll have a comfortable e-fund and will be able to focus on saving for “fun things” like vacations, furniture, etc.

  7. Dustin says:

    Cutting back on cable tv packages, phone and internet services saves a bundle. I started bringing my lunch to work over a year ago. It’s amazing how much you can save.

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